Saint Joseph Calasanz

detail of a bas-relief of San José de Calasanz; date and artist unknown; school of Gascón y Marín, Zaragoza, Spain; photographed on 27 December 2009 by Ecelan; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsAlso known as

  • Joseph Calasanctius
  • Joseph of Our Lady
  • Joseph Calsanza
  • José de Calasanz



Youngest of five children born to Don Pedro Calasanz and Donna Maria Gastonia. His mother and a brother died while he was still in school. Studied at Estadilla, at the University of Lereda, at Valencia, and at Alcala de Henares. Obtained degrees in canon law and theology. His father wanted the Joseph to become a soldier, to marry, and to continue the family, but a near fatal illness in 1582 caused the young man to seriously examine his life, and he realized a call to the religious life.

Ordained on 17 December 1583. Parish priest at Albarracin. Secretary and confessor to his bishop, synodal examiner, and procurator. Revived religious zeal among the laity, discipline among the clergy in a section of the Pyrenees. Both his bishop and his father died in 1587.

Vicar-general of Trempe, Spain. Following a vision, he gave away much of his inheritance, renounced most of the rest, and travelled to Rome, Italy in 1592. Worked in the household of Cardinal Ascanio Colonna as thelogical advisor for the cardinal, tutor to the cardinal‘s nephew. Worked with plague victims in 1595.

Member of the Confraternity for Christian Doctrine. Tried to get poor children, many of them orphans and/or homeless, into school. The teachers, already poorly paid, refused to work with the new students without a raise; in November 1597, Joseph and two fellow priests opened a small, free school for poor children. Pope Clement VIII, and later Pope Paul V, contributed toward their work. He was soon supervising several teachers and hundreds of students.

In 1602 they moved to larger quarters, and reorganized the teaching priests into a community. In 1612 they moved to the Torres palace to have even more room. In 1621 the community was recognized as a religious order called Le Sciole Pie (Religious Schools), also known as the Piarists, or Scolopii or Ordo Clericorum Regularium Pauperum Matris Dei Scholarum Piarum or Order of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools; Joseph acted as superior of the Order.

The community encountered many obstacles – Joseph’s friendship with the astronomer Galileo Galilei caused a stir with some Church officials. Some of the ruling class objected that to educate the poor would cause social unrest. Other Orders that worked with the poor were afraid they would be absorbed by the Piarists. But they group continued to have papal support, and continued to do good work.

In his old age, Joseph suffered through seeing his Order torn apart. He was accused of incompetence by Father Mario Sozzi, who was chosen as new superior of the Order. Sozzi died in 1643, and was replaced by Father Cherubini who pursued the same course as Sozzi, and nearly destroyed the Order. A papal commission charged with examining the Order acquitted Joseph of all accusations, and in 1645, returned him to superior of the Order, but internal dissent continued, and in 1646 Pope Innocent X dissolved the Order, placing the priests under control of their local bishops.

The Piarists were reorganized in 1656, eight years after Joseph’s death. They were restored as a religious order in 1669, and continue their good work today.







Piety and Letters – motto of Saint Joseph Calasanz

Everyone knows the great merit and dignity attached to that holy ministry in which young boys, especially the poor, receive instruction for the purpose of attaining eternal life. This ministry is directed to the well-being of body and soul; at the same time, that it shapes behavior it also fosters devotion and Christian doctrine. Moreover the strongest support is provided not only to protect the young from evil, but also to rouse them and attract them more easily and gently to the performance of good works. Like the twigs of plants, the young are easily influenced, as long as someone works to change their souls. But if they are allowed to grow hard, we know well that the possibility of one day bending them diminishes a great deal and is sometimes utterly lost. All who undertake to teach must be endowed with deep love, the greatest of patience, and, most of all, profound humility. They must perform their work with earnest zeal. Then, through their humble prayers, the Lord will find them worthy to become fellow workers with him in the cause of truth. He will console them in the fulfillment of this most noble duty, and finally, will enrich them with the gift of heaven. As Scripture says, “Those who instruct many in justice will shine as stars for all eternity.” They will attain this more easily if they make a covenant of perpetual obedience and strive to cling to Christ and please him alone, because, in his words, “What you did to one of the least of my brethren, you did to me.” – from the writings of Saint Joseph Calasanz

Lord, You blessed Saint Joseph Calasanz with such charity and patience that he dedicated himself to the formation of Christian youth. As we honor this teacher of wisdom may we follow his example in working for truth. – opening prayer for the Mass for Saint Joseph Calasanz

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Joseph Calasanz“. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 December 2021. Web. 22 January 2022. <>